Some Vt. seniors express frustration at pace of vaccination campaign

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:08 PM EST
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SHELBURNE, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Governor Phil Scott has said the state is committed to rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to older Vermonters to save lives, but officials haven’t unveiled that plan yet, and that is making some seniors feel like the state is falling behind.

More than 125 staff and residents at the Arbors at Shelburne got their first COVID-19 vaccination dose last week. That’s 95% of the people who are halfway through the immunization process. But tens of thousands of Vermonters 75 and older who live on their own are wondering when it will be their turn. That includes Roland and Jay Limoge, a couple that lives right down the road.

“We’re very disappointed in not getting it,” said Roland. “We anticipated getting it quite a bit earlier in relation to the seriousness.”

“We’ve waited and we still don’t know when we’re going to get it,” added Jay.

The couple is in their early 80s and has rarely stepped outside their Shelburne home since March. They say they don’t want to wait to live their lives any longer. “It’s pretty sad for all of us. I know there’s a lot of people like us that are missing family. That’s what’s terrible -- not seeing your grandchildren. You wave to your neighbors. You don’t see anybody, you really don’t,” Jay said.

“You don’t see friends either,” added Roland.

The Limoges are among an estimated 50,000 Vermont residents aged 75 and older. So far, the federal government has distributed 69,800 doses to Vermont and the state has administered 29,500 shots to health care workers and residents at long-term care facilities. Only about 2,900 individuals are fully immunized with the second dose. So what accounts for what some seniors are calling the slow rollout?

“The primary obstacle to not moving more quickly and more widespread in terms of reaching people is the allocation,” said Deputy Vt. Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan. She says that the distribution of vaccines to Vermont varies from week to week. Some weeks they receive between seven and eight thousand and others they get even fewer. “We don’t have a lot of vaccines sitting on shelves. As it comes in, we’re ready. We can be ready and say we have enough streams to get 20,000 doses out in a week. If we only get 8,000, then we have to quickly adjust.”

Dolan insists that developing a plan is not the problem. She says the state will likely utilize pharmacies, public health care clinics, and primary care providers. “The actual administration of the vaccine is really not complicated,” she said.

Governor Scott and Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith are slated to announce the next steps in the state’s vaccination efforts Friday, which is expected to focus on the 75-plus age group. Officials acknowledge it will still take months to fully immunize the elderly population.

For frustrated seniors struggling with COVID fatigue, the Limoges have a message. “I say stay where you are. Stay at your home and wait, and then you’ll be safe, because this is not going away. And there aren’t fewer cases every day, there are more cases every day. So, you just have to say, ‘No, I don’t want to die that way,’” Jay said.

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